Booking quality entertainment can be the difference between a successful event and a forgettable one, and celebrities usually leave a lasting impression for event-goers. But for a lot of planners, the celebrity booking process remains a mystery.
When considering hiring a celebrity for an event, it’s important to understand the booking process; not just the negotiation and contract phase, but also things like ensuring you’re picking the right celebrity to match your event and the steps involved in bringing them on board.
If you’re considering hiring a celebrity to give your event that extra ‘something’, this post will highlight the most commonly overlooked details of booking celebrities for events.
Figure out your budget
Before you can do anything else, the first thing you absolutely must do is sit down and figure out the budget for your event. After all, it does no good to line up a celebrity for your event, only to realise when it comes to the negotiation phase that you don’t have enough money to hire them.
Unfortunately, booking fees aren’t public knowledge; you can try a Google search, but in all likelihood, whatever figure you get didn’t come from the celebrity and it’s almost always inaccurate.
What this means is that you have to figure out the rest of your expenses and work backward. Once you have a firm idea of how much you’re going to spend on everything else, subtract that number from your total budget; what’s left over will be what you can afford to spend on entertainment.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the price tag for booking celebrities for an event often doesn’t include all the extras, like travel and hotels, food, transportation to and from the event, any equipment they might need, and any other items that the entertainer requires in their contract rider.
So if you have a budget of £50,000, don’t assume you can spend the whole £50,000 on the celebrity’s booking fee- that’s how you end up with cost overruns that can impact your profit margins.
Make sure they’re a good match
This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many bookers line up celebrities for an event or venue that’s a terrible fit. For the same reason you wouldn’t want “The Situation” to attend an art gallery opening, you wouldn’t want Tom Hanks to attend an event at a nightclub.
And if you’re the owner of a 21+ venue, you don’t want to book a teen pop idol whose fans are too young to even get in the building.
This might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many bookers are so eager to book whatever entertainment is available that they don’t consider whether or not that entertainment is a good fit for their venue or event.
In order to make the most of your booking (and get your money’s worth), make sure that the person you hire is going to resonate in a positive way with your audience.
Figure out what you want them to do
Depending on the type of event, your budget, and the celebrity you have in mind, there are a few different routes you can take.
If you want to save money, you might want to consider an appearance or walkthrough arrangement, where the celebrity either walks through the event and shows their face, or hangs out at a table for a little while- these are less expensive, but the caveat is that you also get less interaction between the celebrity and your guests.
If you want more celebrity interaction, you can consider a hosting arrangement, where the celebrity will spend the whole night at your event and mingle with the people attending the event.
And if you want the whole event centered around the celebrity, you can hire them for a speaking or performance arrangement, where the celebrity will typically stay at the event and be the focus of everyone’s attention for the night.
But remember, the more you ask the celebrity to do, the more you’ll have to pay, so it’s up to you to find the right balance of celebrity interaction with your guests and your budget.
Get to know their agent
When trying to book entertainment for an event, you likely won’t be reaching out to the artist or celebrity directly. Almost 100% of the time, you’ll be reaching out to their agent (and in some rare cases, their manager). In order to give yourself the best chance of success when dealing with an agent, you need to understand how the agent works.
To boil it all down, an agent is responsible for finding work for their clients. Whether that’s film or TV roles for actors, shows and tours for musicians, or events and endorsement deals, agents look for work that suits their client’s specialty.
Agents get a cut of every deal their client makes, which means they’re also responsible for making sure the business side of any deals they do are favourable to their client.
Depending on the kind of entertainment you want for events, you may be dealing with different kinds of agents. But it’s important that you know what the agent does and how they work if you want to book their client for an event.
Know how to reach out
Once you’ve identified the celebrity that you want for your event, the next step is to reach out to their agent. The standard process for reaching out to an agent follows a pretty basic format.
There are quite a few things to know about dealing with agents, but in the interest of time, the two most important ones are simple: be concise with your request, and know-how to follow up.
A general rule of thumb is to give it 3-5 days between follow-up emails to make sure the agent has enough time to read and digest your request. These can be the difference between booking the entertainment you want and not even getting a response.
Know how (and when) to negotiate
You should also be willing to negotiate (and know how to effectively negotiate) the booking fee- just because you’re quoted a particular fee doesn’t mean you should pay it. Being willing to negotiate on their fee can save you a lot of up-front costs.
As with any negotiation, though, you have to know when to push and when to ease off. If you don’t, you run the risk of ensuring the entertainer will never consider working with you again.
There are a couple of easy ways to give yourself a boost in the negotiation process.
Make sure never to make your first offer your best offer- using the budget I mentioned earlier, take 10% off of the amount you have left over for entertainment and use that as an initial offer.
If the agent doesn’t go for it, you can work from there, but at least you’ve given yourself some wiggle room. And second, don’t be afraid to walk away. In order to effectively do that, you’ll need to have some backup options in mind if your first choice doesn’t go through, but showing a willingness to walk away from negotiation can significantly boost your bargaining power.
Consider hiring a talent buyer
Finally, if all of these details seem like too much to manage on top of planning everything else, you can consider hiring a middle agent or talent buyer. A reputable talent buyer will have established relationships with agents, and they can usually use those relationships to secure the booking on your behalf.
A word to the wise, though: talent buyers take a percentage of the overall deal price as commission, so they probably won’t be as likely to negotiate on your behalf, especially if it means their cut will go down as a result.
Also, there’s a (small) risk of wasting your time trying to work through someone who claims they know the entertainer’s representation but really have a distant (at best) relationship with them.
Booking entertainment for events is a little like riding a bike: it may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward process.
This was a guest post from Billy Bones, the marketing director at Bookingagentinfo.com, which provides event planners with the contact info for the official agents, managers, and publicists. He also runs Celebrity Endorsers which helps businesses identify celebrities to work with based on their endorsements, interests, and charitable contributions.